It was a busy month of June during Johnny’s second season at Wellington’s. Events were booked virtually every weekend and so Johnny had to work six-day weeks through the last month of school. All of the parties were big ones, even by Hampton’s standards. The first event was the wedding that Johnny had worked with Misty and her friends. That one had over 600 guests. The one they had the following week was even bigger.
The Blumenthal Nature Conservatory of East Hampton was having their annual “One with Nature” Benefit at a private home in East Hampton. Stewart had been preparing for this one all winter. He’d gotten the job from a regular client and friend, Penelope Pratt, the wife of a well known studio exec. Penelope was on the board at the Conservatory and she adored just about everything that Stewart did. She secured his services right after the previous year’s event.
From what Johnny could tell as soon as he walked into the shop that Friday before the event, Penelope would have a ‘hands-on” role in this one, which was very unusual. During his tenure at Wellington’s, he’d never seen a client actually work an event. He walked in on a conversation between Stewart and Penelope.
“There’s just so much to bring out there. Maybe I should rent another van.”
“Oh, no, no, no…Don’t worry Stewart. I can get us in tonight. We can bring out whatever we can get into the van tonight and worry about the rest tomorrow.”
“Hey Johnny! How are you? Are you ready to work? We’ve got a lot to do tonight!”
“Hi Stewart. Of course I’m ready. I’m always ready.”
Stewart chuckled. “Johnny, you know Penelope, right?”
“Hello,” Johnny said to Mrs. Pratt.
“Uh, hi,” Penelope let out a fake smile and immediately went back to her conversation with Stewart. “So anyway, the tents should be up by around six and the lighting men are coming right after, so there’s no problem dropping stuff off.”
“Okay, we can take all the driftwood…and we can set up the trees.”
“Trees?” Johnny thought. “What kind of trees?” This wasn’t looking good already.
“Johnny, I want you to go out back to the garage. There are boxes of driftwood that need to go in the van.”
“Driftwood?” Johnny asked.
“Yeah, um, let me show you.” Stewart led Johnny through the garden behind the shop and into the garage. Johnny dreaded the garage. It was kind of spooky, with dark corners all around and all kinds of stuff strewn all around. Inside the garage, there were open flower boxes full of different sized pieces of driftwood. There had to be at least six of them and they were all piled up on top of one another. They were awkward to lift, and they were heavy!
“Now, I want you to pack these all into the van and then bring it around front so you and Jaden can get the trees inside. Then we’re going to take everything to the venue and start to prep for the event.”
“You got it Stewart!” Johnny was already not looking forward to this. He found out later that there were going to be over 1,000 guests at this benefit, so there was a lot of setting up to do. The driftwood was for the tables. They were going to be covered in some sort of sea grass and an orchid would be placed ‘artistically’ within the setting. It sounded cool, but it was going to be a lot of work!
Jaden was back, too, that probably meant that all of Misty’s friends from last week would be there. And that Penelope lady! Johnny had met her only once or twice before. Her affection for Stewart was clear, but she already gave Johnny the cold shoulder and who knew what she was going to be like to work with on a job? Johnny wanted to go home!
The event was being held beneath several huge tents set up behind a mansion. The grounds were beautifully landscaped, with a perfectly manicured lawn and several formal gardens scattered here and there. There was a shrub-lined pathway between the house and the furthest reaches of the property, where the tents were set up.
The theme for the Conservatory’s benefit was of course, “One with Nature”, and Stewart reveled in his task of creating a scene to hide anything and everything man-made. With a lot of input from Penelope, Stewart was already recreating the design as he went. He had rented the 8-foot palm trees that they brought to cover up the tent poles and add a little drama.
“You know, maybe the trees would look better down the walkway coming up from the house.” Penelope offered up an opinion as the two of them walked out of the van to check out the scene. Johnny and Jaden unloaded the palm trees, but at Johnny’s direction they didn’t go far with them, just in case Penelope changed Stewart’s mind. Next came the driftwood…all six boxes of them. There had to be at least thirty to forty pieces in each box, Johnny thought as he and Jaden struggled to get them out of the van and under the tent.
Just as they put down the last box, a man pulled up in a Mercedes with the words “East Hampton Fire Department” emblazoned on its doors.
“Excuse me,” he called out to the two men.
Johnny looked up and pointed towards himself to make sure it was him the gentleman was calling to.
“Yes, you. Do you have the fireproofing certificate for those?”
“Uh, oh!” Johnny thought to himself. To the fire guy, he answered, ‘Let me get my boss,” and Johnny ran off in search of Stewart…
To be continued